Starting School 2012

The  Treehorn  Express

Who’s Treehorn?

Australian school children will be returning to school soon. Some children will be starting school, with 12 or more years of institutionalised learning in front of them. If you know any of them, try to assess their enthusiasm for learning as they go through the first year. Take a real good look. It is well known that all children learn more in their first year of school than they do in any other year of their life.

Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we could build on this natural enthusiasm and increase its spirit, year by year…instead of crippling it…as NAPLAN does ?

Wouldn’t it be wonderful if children left school with more enthusiasm for learning …lots more…than when they started? [What does an achievement level using numbers or letters mean to anyone who likes learning?]

The world would be everybody’s oyster if we had a system that looked at what happens in the classroom as children grew older; and we then constructed a learning culture through wise, experience leadership from what happens there. I’d suggest that Finland goes part of the way to develop this love for learning. At least, Finland doesn’t threaten its young nor prescribe what teachers must do.

I’d further suggest that Australia can do better than anyone else because we don’t have to copy systems from up-over, as we have been wont to do. We can be independent and better. We have real quality in our teaching force, at present….[even though some great talent have left with NAPLAN-disgust.]  It only needs conviction and grit; and exemplary leadership at the school level.


Please share this short story with as many parents and teachers as you can.


Louise wrote the following letter on 6 January, 2012.

Dear Phil,

Do I have the authority to refuse to allow my grade three daughter to sit the naplan test. As she fears this exam and has expressed such fear on several occasions to me. I am concerned for her future exam situations wherein the NAPLAN test may give her future exam anxiety that could cause long term damage. I think I know my child just as well as any teacher.

Does a note to the principal cover this or will I need to contact the education department directly?

We are currently in the public Queensland education system.


I replied to Louise on the same day.

Dear Louise,

Thank you for your inquiry.

Yes. All you need to do is to write a polite letter to the Principal asking him or her “….to withdraw __Full Name __ from all NAPLAN testing while he/she is a pupil of the school.”

If your Principal is a curriculum-oriented person, as he/she probably is, your letter will be appreciated and understood. There should be no fuss.

It might be a courtesy just to tell the class teacher at some time or other that you have done this. This is not necessary, of course, but it ensures that pleasant and harmonious relationships prevail.

You are a very wise parent, for sure. I hope that you will get the chance to tell your friends what you have done.

Please  contact me direct by phone, email, whatever, should you wish to do so, Louise. I truly appreciate your question. Please feel free to use this letter in any way that you like.

Heartiest congratulations and warmest wishes.

Phil Cullen, Former Q’ld Director of Primary Education. 6 January 2012.

Louise forwarded an email on the following day.


I had an interesting chat with my children’s principal today after receiving your email yesterday stating the ease with which one can remove the stress from their child regarding naplan. Most of my group of parent friends find it hard to believe that a government ordained exam is so easy to resolve for our children.

Louise. 7 January 2012


Also, on 7 January, Louise informed her friends on Facebook that all they had to do to withdraw from NAPLAN was to write to the Principal. Here’s some extracts from the replies.

A C : “So much pressure and I don’t understand what it achieves. When they bring it home I just say did you do your best.’yes’ has always been the answer. From there we put it away and get on with doing our best, not worrying what the piece of paper says”

RT: “I have never found it stressful with my children. Really a personal choice and opinion. Thanks.”

JS: “Funny how you don’t get told this. I have so many dramas with my kids over this test they get stressed and they also see how they COMPARE and I don’t like it an would rather them not do it. I ask the same thing did you do your best and I move on. The kids, however, do not. so yes I will be pulling mine out to save the drama and heart ache they get.”

RT: “If it causes the children stress it is not worth it. That’s why as parents we need to do the best for our children. All children are so different and some cope with things better than others.”

LM:”I feel it is so important parents know they don’t have to have their child sit the naplan if it does not suit that child. It is not advertised and many parents think that it’s just a part of life and the children must do it. This is simply not the case and each family has the right to decide for their own situation what is best for them. Spread the word it’s not just a must-do exam set by education Queensland.”

SM:” My daughter sat for hers..and she knew girls who actually cheated on it and got noticed for doing better than others. Was not fair at all.”

TT:”Thank you for the info my son is so stressed out by the test and the hype the teachers put on it he was sick, not to mention he had missed so much school due to the weather. HE WILL NOT BE DOING IT THIS YEAR.”


Isn’t it a pity that such fear and uncertainty about the administration of the silly blanket tests in May has spread through the general population?   It is just so simple to opt-out, as Louise and her friends have found.

Parental concern  would be removed if each school just mentioned on its website or on messages to parents that all that is required NOT TO CONTEST NAPLAN is a short note to the Principal.

Each Australian government authority really should make a public pronouncement ahead of the worries caused by the May tests.

Tell your school now. You can change your mind later if you think that NAPLAN might do your child [vis-a-vis the polliticians] any good. Ask yourself. Where’s the benefit to my kid?

It is not a secret.  Better still, a curriculum oriented school will have a typed statement, ready for signature when each child is enrolled.

No big problem…..unless the school or state department has something to hide!


The present-day bipartisan political  focus on CONFORMITY, INEQUALITY and MEDIOCRITY – forced on us by government decree  – through the regimentation of our young by the use of NAPLAN – with all-party support– is NOT the Australian way.




About September, 2013 there will be  Australian politicians’  NAPLAN DAY :-

National Assessment of Politicians’ L…………….. And N…………….  Can you help to fill the blanks?

Lassitude and Neglect ?        Laziness  and  Nonchalance ?

David Buckle suggest National Assessment of Politicians’ Liabilities and Negligence.


Phil Cullen

41 Cominan Avenue

Banora Point 2486

07 5524 6443


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